MIRAGE (A Short-story)
Yes, recently I joined a news publication house as a staff reporter. It was an English daily, the oldest publication house of the state as a weekly but lately it had lost its wide readership. As a result, I could get the job easily. Besides, I had a fervor for writing in English and wanted to have it. Meanwhile, I stumbled on this house rightly to assuage my hunger for writing. I wasn’t appointed as sub-Editor but as a staff reporter. So, I had to take rounds of all places in town in order to collect the news reports, and in the evening I had to file the reports to complete them. Though my duty was just during the daytime, sometimes I had to work till late hours as well. So, I was asked for additional work too, such as receiving the news reports from the correspondents on phone. I too, was ready to bear this, since it would be my further experience for journalism, though. So why fuss over this trivia?
One day, my copy-editor asked me to receive a call from a lady correspondent. Who was she? I didn’t know her. Whatever she dictated over the phone, I just noted down all of that pertaining to her report. I received the report. The next day the Editor again told me to ring up the lady correspondent for news. Her handwritten report was not legible. It was almost 10 o’clock that night, late enough to call her. But there was no other way. So, I rang her up, embarrassingly. What was fretting me was that if instead of her, any other from her family member received the call, what would they think about me? But, I didn’t have any wrong intentions. Luckily, she herself received the phone call. I introduced myself to her and corrected her report as we spoke over the phone. I finished it as well. During the conversation I did find her voice getting a bit drowsy, so, I mustered up the courage to ask her if she was feeling sleepy or not. She smiled and refuted in a mellifluous tone. Following that, I was just putting down the phone while she asked me, “Excuse me, may I know your name?” She seemed a bit hesitant.
“Of course, “I bluntly replied. “Anoop Rai”. It was very late in the night and there were lots of work to do. So, I finished off my talk and encouraged her to continue her writing.
With the passing of time, I could not improve my writing as I had thought earlier. The Editor was also newly recruited. He hesitated to publish my political writing other than the news reports. So, gradually I was losing my interest to continue in that house and I was in pursuit of a job in another house. Until then I was doing my duty willy-nilly.
“May I come in?” a young chap was standing at the door.
“Come in,” I donned a welcoming smile, and asked him “What can I do for you?”
“Sneha di has sent these photos and application,” the boy handed over me three pieces of color passport size photographs of a girl.
At that time the Editor wasn’t present there since he had his duty in the evening. So, it was my duty to receive the documents.
Is it for publishing or what? “I asked that silently standing guy. “No, she was telling for her identity card.”
“Oh!” I guessed that it might have been sent by some correspondent of our paper. Later on, when I read the application, I found it was sent by a correspondent named Snehalata Rai from South Sikkim. She must be that reporter I had spoken to some days back at night for reports over the phone. Anyway, it isn’t my business I thought, and put those documents on the Editor’s table.
That day again, I had to work till night. I was asked to receive the news report. I followed it, and I realized it was the same familiar voice I had spoken to a few nights back.
But I got a confirmation from her.
“Are you Snehalata Rai”?
“Yes,“She replied shyly, and in a faltering voice she asked me, “if I am not wrong you are Anoop…., right?”
“Ha! Ha! You’re absolutely right,” I gleefully laughed. “That means I’ve left a mark in your memory?”
“Not so,” she was still feeling awkward talking to me. But I kept on talking. I could visualize that girl’s face before me- simple, docile, not so vivacious, unlike today’s fashionable girl. She seemed like an ideal homely girl, which I could figure out pertaining to her passport photograph. Only that much was my introduction with her, not more than that, but now I’m going in a thorough introduction with her.
“Well, you’re from Namchi, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” She calmly replied. “But, actually I’m not from proper Namchi, it is in the outskirts of Gaok basti. I’m studying here at Namchi College for this also I’m staying here.”
“It’s my final year, ”she went on. “I mean I have appeared in my final exam, and now I’m awaiting my result.”
“Is it? Then wish you pass in Exam.” I wished her success and not only did I wish her to pass but also with first division.
“Thank you, ”she smiled and abruptly asked me, “may I know where are you from?”
“Darjeeling,” I quickly replied. “But you people are luckier than us. You have lots of opportunities here, so try something. You people have a very bright career.”I finished off my homily.
Thus, our relation sprung up. Having known her interest in journalism, one day I sent a book on journalism to her by speed post. Some days later I received her letter of being grateful. She had also mentioned the time to phone her which was from 7 to 8 in the evening or else it was difficult to get her.
I was tickled pink for having received my book so gladly by her. But I did not call her up regularly because she wouldn’t be available all the time on the phone. Even I was too busy to call her. But, occasionally, I did.
One day when I was at the office, two girls appeared before me. One of them was in a blue churidar. I was able to notice, she was none other than Snehalata as I had seen her photograph. I asked them to sit down on the sofa beside me. She was exactly what I thought, simple docile, sober, fair and not to mention taciturn.
“Well, I have given your applications and photos to the Editors. Perhaps, he will give you today, I broke the silence that stood before us.
“That’s why I have come here.” She looked miffed. “For a long time, I have been asking for the I-card. The office didn’t heed my problem so I have come myself.”
“Right, you can ask that today itself.” Then I informed the Editor that she was there. After a moment I again began to speak.
“Well, your report writing is improving a lot, ” I said, laughing. “And yes, I had told you to write clearly and elaborately the news while sending through fax but you never did.”
“Oh yes. ” She felt shy and, in a jiffy, dilates her eyes in disbelief and shouts “Are you Anupdaju?”
“Yes, it’s me.”
As soon as she heard my reply, she laughed and blushed as well. “Oh, you?” In an apologetic voice, she said, “Sorry daju, I thought you’re somebody else.”
“But you had told me you wouldn’t be available at the office in the day time,” she reminded me.
“Yes, but I’m sometimes,” I laughed.
The whirlwind started rambling in my mind. I was feeling extremely embarrassed. She is present here; it is a big opportunity to speak to her at length. But I am on duty, right away I have to go outside for reports, and even if I made the time, would she be ready? She might be busy as she might have her own reason. I was completely in a dubiously hesitant state. In the due course of my reluctance state, the Editor arrives and the chain of conversation is interrupted. She steps into the Editor’s chamber but my mind was still whirling. Today is my chance, if I lost this, then she would never be close to me. And just then a second thought crossed my mind: if she agreed then where should I take to her? Which restaurant? Glernary’s or just in some casual joint? I delved my hands into my pocket for money. I felt the money that was there would barely serve for the taxi fare. I couldn’t think more than it. I left the office at once without meeting Snehalata.
I was still feeling bitter at the very thought of not meeting Snehalata. What she might have thought about me. Many unwanted thoughts came. One day I rang her up. Surprisingly, she received my call in such a way as she was waiting for my call only.
“What a surprise! I’m lucky to meet you.” Today I was obsessed with the feeling that she won’t talk to me and even if she did that must be hardly a few words because after all, I had failed to impress her pertaining to pass the opportunity, which I had. But getting her response, I became happy as hell.
“What’s that?” The unbounded happiness already filled my heart. A beam of love was seen across the horizon of my hope. I saw yonder a pair of herons passed flying towards the serene sky which had lately become clear after shrouding the dark clouds. Really, hope is an elixir of life for pessimists. Exactly, this applied to me. I forgot all despairs of my life. I had exactly a feeling where I felt was on cloud nine.
“You know,” she giggled. “Your blessing worked on me. I passed the exam.”
“Is it?” I cried in happiness, “Congratulations!” “And another good news is”, her voice sounded extremely melodious and vibrant, “I’m going to Delhi, for pursuing the Journalism course.”
“Very good idea,” I shortly approved of her idea but that pained me to the core. “How could you plan on such a thing, so soon?”
Actually, our local MLA’s son had also planned on joining the journalism course. Having seen my interest in journalism, MLA sahib managed government quota for me,” her mirthful laugh I could distinctly hear.
“Hello!” she was speaking on the phone from the other end.
“Yes, tell me!” with a heavy heart knowing that I would never meet her again nor could ever call her, I asked “Why are you keeping mum?” she shook me. “Won’t you congratulate me again?”
“Hmm! “Smiling, I said, “Why shouldn’t I congratulate my ……. close friend. Congratulations!”
“Thank you!” I could hear only this sentence.
The next day I found myself resigning from the job without any reason.